by Sandhya Narayan

I soaked in the warm fresh air around me as I watched others trying to settle down for the evening. The moon overhead looked on patiently over the Natrani Amphitheatre in Ahmedabad, India. The evening was being hosted by a group of young people of Ahmedabad City who have been organising a number of unique and exciting annual film festivals each year with themes focusing on Peace, Children and Women.

The 3rd Nazariya Women's Film Festival had a lineup of a selection of thought provoking films starting from 6-8, March in the lead up to the International Womens Day 2010.

The film chosen for the opening night was “Khamosh Pani” (Silent Waters), a unique Punjabi movie that is slowly making ripples in the cinematic world. The Pakistani-French-German co-production has already bagged four awards during the 56th Locarno International Film Festival held in Switzerland last year, including best actress (Kiron Kher) and for Best Film.

Sabiha Sumar, is a relatively unknown Pakistani female film director. She studied filmmaking at the Sarah Lawrence College in New York and has made political and environmental topics as core issues in her past work which includes “Who Will Cast the First Stone”, “Karachi” and “Where Peacocks Dance,” aired on television in the UK. Her “Of Mothers, Mice and Saints” has been produced in Germany. Khamosh Pani and was also included in the lineup of films shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival held recently.

Khamosh Pani is about a young Sikh girl, Veero who was left behind on the Muslim side of the religious divide in 1947 when women either “lost their honor” at the hands of the opposing “religious’ side, or lost their lives at the hands of their own male family members. The women who escaped forced suicide or execution by their male family members ironically to protect family “honor” is a subject not often discussed in both India and Pakistan today. Thousands of Muslim women were abducted or left behind by their families, refugees fleeing for Pakistan in India while similarly Sikh and Hindu women were forced to fend for themselves in Pakistan while their kin escaped to India. Needless to say “honour” on both sides was preserved at such a high human cost of female lives that some of these abandoned women who later contacted their own families on the other side of the divide were rejected by their own fathers or brothers because they were now considered a source of family dishonour. Khamosh Pani is one such story about a Sikh girl “Veero” who is transformed into Muslim “Ayesha”. But it does not end there. Ayesha is to discover late in her life, the forces of history can be unforgiving not once but twice.

The other films featured in the three day festival included “Understanding Trafficking” by Ananya Chakraborty, “Picture Perfect” by Carol Tizzano, “Picture This!” by Divyang Thakkar and “A Certain Liberation” by Yasmine Kabir.

Nazariya is an initiative of DRISHTI (www.drishtimedia.org) to introduce an alternative perception by screening documentaries and short films that reflect a broader reality of the people in the society, acknowledging the possibility of another point of view, another version of truth, another way of viewing.

Nazariya believes that their film festivals are the means through which audience are exposed to other people's imagination and the discussions after the screenings, give the audience new perspectives to ponder over.

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